Risk managers play a critical role in ensuring that digital technologies are implemented ethically. That requires thinking beyond compliance and ensuring that risk managers are guided by their moral compasses, says IRM Digital Ethics Guidelines.

“As risk professionals, we have a duty to ensure that new technologies are developed and used in ways that will do the minimum amount of harm while striking a balance with the opportunities for our organisations and communities,” says IRM chair Iain Wright (CIRM).

This balancing act can involve ethical dilemmas that do not have simple answers. But the issues involved often do not require in-depth knowledge of the technologies involved. “This digital ethics guideline has been created for the risk professional audience without expecting an in-depth knowledge of modern technology,” Wright says.

Core principles

The guidelines set out three core principles:

  • If something should not be done in the physical world, it should not be done in the digital world.
  • Data should be secured to ensure that it is complete, correct, consistent, and current as far as reasonably practicable.
  • Data sources and resulting outputs should be confirmed as free from bias as far as reasonably practicable.

In fact, risk managers can refer to IRM’s code of conduct where there are checklists to help people think through complex issues.

Basic tests

In addition, the guidance says that there are four basic tests that could be helpful in applying the ethical principles:

  • Accountability: Are appropriate and effective governance and oversight mechanisms in place to safeguard all potential stakeholders in the technology?
  • Fairness: Could the technology discriminate, either intentionally or inadvertently, against individuals or social groups?
  • Transparency: Would the technology’s actions and processes be straightforward for a knowledgeable human to understand?
  • Sustainability: Are the real-world consequences of the technology on individuals and society understood?

The publication is authorised by the Professional Standards Committee on behalf of IRM. It was developed by Mark Turner.

The guidance is available for free here.